Asset forfeiture is a process in which law enforcement agencies seize property that they believe was involved in a crime. It’s often misused and innocent people face a “legal” form of theft from law enforcement without due process. Examples of assets that may be seized include vehicles, real estate, cash, or anything else they believe to have been acquired as a result of criminal activity.
Under civil asset forfeiture law in Texas, the government can seize property before even charging the owner with a crime. It’s governed by Chapter 59 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Under this law, law enforcement agencies may seize property if they have probable cause to believe that it is either derived from criminal activity or used in furtherance of criminal activity. The burden of proof is effectively on the owner of the property to show that the property was not used in connection with criminal activity or that the owner unknowingly possessed property that was part of criminal activity.
The owner may challenge the forfeiture, where a hearing will be held to determine the legality of the seizure of the assets. It’s ridiculous that anyone must prove that they own their own property simply because law enforcement believes they have “probable cause.” Asset forfeiture isn’t just a controversial practice; it can be considered unconstitutional in some situations. It can be argued that it goes against our Fourth Amendment right protecting us from unreasonable searches and seizures. If your belongings have been taken by law enforcement, there is a limited time frame to respond and get your property back. Call (806) 372-5711 for a consultation to discuss your case.